Fields brimming with vibrant sunflowers, acceptance is widespread and health is in abundance; the OSHUNiverse is a space lacking nothing and one that knows no boundaries. A manifestation of the inherent beliefs held by afro-futurism duo OSHUN, the spiritual place of being leans on the group’s unique sonic expressions to provide an alternative way of living.
Niambi and Thandi became acquainted early in their college years, they shared and simultaneously developed a commitment to pan-africanism and a belief in the power of self-love.
The duo were able to carve out a lane with fluid blends of R&B and hip hop that borrowed inspiration from Erykah Badu and encompassed the natural sounds of their immersive experience. Their music and imagery is at the core of what they do, and they use the mediums as a platform for change. Frequently using the OSHUNiverse as a vehicle for fans to engage with and digest their message, their world is based on very real ideals about peace and love.
In an attempt to avoid using too many superlatives I found myself struggling. OSHUN’s perspective and approach feels so radical in a world overflowing with capitalist-driven expressions of artistry. The Maryland natives have cut through a saturated music market by being themselves and sticking to the ideals that brought them together in college.
Our phone call began with Niambi and Thandi talking about embracing their heritage and adopting the namesake of the god of fertility, love and purity. In doing so they made a deliberate commitment to the values of Yoruba – a culture and religion that couldn’t be more alien to the neo-liberal dominated music industry of today.
I asked the pair how it feels to create in a male dominated landscape with ideals, sounds, and frankly identities that don’t fit the popular narrative. The Maryland natives remained resolute, citing the ability of artists to act independently and operate outside the traditional confines of the ‘industry’.
Thandi says, “There is pressure even if it is subconscious, being in the art business, there are people in our lane who may have content that is not as unapologetically pan-african as ours or maybe present themselves in a way that is different from us. In that way we stay firm because we represent our blood and our ancestors. We come from more than just a desire to be in the industry, but really to make global change at the end of the day.”
OSHUN recognise that their music serves a bigger purpose than they do as artists. Their attitude and honesty illustrates this. They have a real platform to make change and conforming would be a disservice to those they seek to inspire.
“We have a confident foundation to not fold,” says Thandi. “But it is a pervasive thing we see all the time, like ‘this is what people look like that are on the radio’ and in a lot of ways we don’t look like that, but that’s what pushes us. We are different and we are glad about that, we are from outer space.”
Niambi adds to this.
“It brings a lot of freedom, it’s very empowering, we are in the driving seat. It’s not like someone is holding some amazing opportunity over our heads and saying this could all be yours if you just change into X, Y, Z. Any opportunity that we get is an opportunity to show up and be fully and authentically ourselves.”
“Its always been there cause it’s who we are,” continues Niambi.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh self-love is happening now let’s talk about it’. Our music is an authentic representation of us navigating our lives. Loving yourself is one of the most radical things you can do in life, especially in this world. It’s always been a part of what we have done, we have always tried to become closer and closer to ourselves and we’ve been trying to heal ourselves and love ourselves and set those foundations tomorrow for those that come after us. That starts with ourselves, I think it’s always been there.”
This resilience is present in everything OSHUN do and it forms the backbone for the OSHUNiverse. I asked Niambi to conjure an image of how their world looks.
“OSHUNiverse is always changing,” she starts.
“It’s consistent in the feeling, but how it looks is always changing. Something that we like to visualise is the OSHUNIverse being part of the 5th dimension, being a place where literally anything is possible, that’s why it can change form. It is infinite space of infinite possibilities. It feels like peace, it feels joyful, it’s a healing space, its a space of abundance and its a state of mind as well.
Niambi continues, “It’s a state of mind as well. We have the power to return to it wherever and whenever we want because it is a state of of sweetness, a state of tapping into our own celestial power, and it’s a creative force in our own lives.”
Outside of the conceptual chatter, Niambi and Thandi touch on their work with Che Lingo; their ‘Black Girl Magic’ remix and the trio’s friendship. First meeting at SXSW and continuing to stay in touch online, they naturally came up with the idea of hopping on a remix with him. Thandi gleefully stated, “It’s a great song and we love everything about the message. It’s a confident song and we are glad to be on it , Che is super dope.”
The more casual conversation reaffirmed what I had come to believe about the duo. The imagery and language projected by OSHUN is different, it’s colourful, it’s interesting. But it’s not just for show, it represents who they are and what they stand for. It’s clear, despite their ambitions to make large scale change through their otherworldly and immersive musical experience, that OSHUN have their feet firmly planted on the ground.
OSHUN play The Grand Social, Sunday 10 November, Tickets available here.
Photo Credits: Annie Bercy